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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Evangelical Spirituality

Yesterday I raised the issue of how the "gospel" is shared in, largely, evangelical circles. As I have been considering this matter and attempting to elucidate my thinking more clearly I came across a very interesting article which compares how the pneumatological perspective of Moltmann can help bring greater shape and clarity to the thinking of John Wesley (see link).

Wesley link

I'd like to work with that particular paper whilst considering Moltmann's own thoughts in order to try and shape an understanding of evangel-ism that affords greater compassion and a more holistic approach towards those who we are seeking to influence with the good news of Jesus Christ and the complete Christian "package".

There are some points within the linked paper that I find to be rather harsh but I cannot help but feel sympathy with the general early emphasis that Reformation Theology begins from a focus upon sin; it begins from a negative presupposition.

To quote Dabney "This sort of theology, therefore, finds its point of departure not in creaturely good, but in creaturely sin, and takes the form not of creation's ascent to God, but of God's descent to creation in Jesus Christ."

I believe that the fact that this theology finds its "point of departure...in sin" has a tendency to promote an overly pessimistic image of humanity. Rather than operating from the position that we are all sinful beings and in need of God's grace there is an unspoken philosophy within sections of evangelicalism that speaks and acts as if salvation through Jesus Christ gets one "over the line" and on the guest list for eternal life and so, therefore, Christians are so much better than the hoi polloi who haven't yet given affirmation to the gospel message.

Humanity, across the board, has a need of ascension to God as well as receiving and embracing the fulness of God's descent in and through Jesus Christ. Humanity has tried, in many ways, to ascend to God without success and it took God in the form of Jesus Christ to achieve this. The good news of this event is not limited to the cross and resurrection. In the whole of Jesus' message and ministry there was a wealth of teaching and action that demonstrated that for Christ he was truly inauguating a kingdom that had at its heart "life in all its fulness".

So there is the action from humanity Godwards as people "ascend to God" in terms of relationship and growth in holiness. This leads on to the next point which I hope to develop over the next while namely that the static Reformation theological approach centres Christianity upon the events of the cross and resurrection. As vital as these events are if they are over represented in theology there can come a point where the Holy Spirit is simply the one who follows on from Jesus; the one who fills in the space until Jesus' return but, as Moltmann works out in "The Spirit of Life", the Spirit's work has always been vital and many faceted throughout Scripture and one key area is in the context of hope.

Moltmann (p9) says "In both the Old and the New Testaments, the words used for the divine act of creating are also used for God's liberating and redeeming acts." The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all intricately involved in each of these processes.

We do not have a situation where God creates, Jesus liberates and the Spirit redeems. Each one is moving like threads in a tapestry making something beautiful of each life. My belief is that all branches of the Christian Church would do well to step back from their own particular favourite perspective and see the whole of what God would achieve with His Kingdom plans not just eschatologically but here and now in this world in which we live.

God's people have had the gift of the Spirit and we need to see the potential and the power of the Spirit for each person inside and outside of the Church. We need to reconsider the scope of God's plans for humanity and to gain a fresh understanding of God's grace and love as it was demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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